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College Board Releases Revised AP U.S. History Framework

By guest blogger Catherine Gewertz

The College Board has released a revised framework for AP U.S. History, or "APUSH," a year after critics attacked it as taking an overly negative view of America's story.

The College Board posted the new, 155-page APUSH framework online yesterday. (You can find the accompanying practice exam, rubrics and other resources here.)

In a statement about the revised framework, the College Board said that gathering public feedback had resulted in "improvements to the language and structure of the course." This version discusses American exceptionalism, brings more attention to the United States' positive contributions to world history, such as its roles in ending the Cold War, and the two World Wars. It offers more detail on the founding fathers, and spends more time discussing the "productive role" of free enterprise, entrepreneurship and innovation.

"Every statement in the 2015 edition has been examined with great care based on the historical record and the principled feedback the College Board received," the statement said. "The result is a clearer and more balanced approach to the teaching of American history that remains faithful to the requirements that colleges and universities set for academic credit."

The College Board also went out of its way to clarify an inaccuracy that had been circulating in one or more early news reports: that the new framework required no changes in textbooks or other materials. On the contrary, the College Board said: "The new framework requires changes in assessment, instructional resources, and classroom teaching."

"Specifically, the 2016 AP U.S. History exam and all subsequent AP U.S. History exams will be fully aligned to the new framework. Furthermore, all teacher professional-development materials and sessions are being aligned to the new framework; we are confident that classroom instruction will shift accordingly.

"The College Board does not develop textbooks for AP courses or require particular textbooks. Instead, states, districts, and schools make local decisions about which college textbooks to use for AP courses. The framework will guide how existing textbooks are used and inform the development of new textbooks."

The arrival of the revised framework drew applause in some quarters. Inside HigherEd reported the comments of other historians who praised it, and American Enterprise Institute scholar (and EdWeek blogger) Rick Hess, who had joined the chorus of criticism last year, wrote that the revisions in the new framework were a big improvement.

But not all critics were appeased. Stanley Kurtz, for instance, penned a stinging critique of it in the National Review.

As you probably recall, last year's version of the framework sparked not only criticism, but moves in some states and districts to dump the product altogether. The Republican National Committee blasted the framework last summer, prompting the College Board to take the unusual step of releasing a practice exam, and promising to issue a "clarified" version of the framework.

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